By Mark Walker, PA Sport
Leeds boss Jesse Marsch says he is determined to get the best out of Raphinha while he remains at the club.
Brazil winger Raphinha, who signed a four-year deal when he joined Leeds from Rennes in October 2020, has been heavily linked with a move to Barcelona in the summer.
Leeds have been in talks with his agent, former Barcelona midfielder Deco, regarding a new contract, but Marsch said he had not discussed his future with the player beyond the current season.
Marsch said: “He is a massive talent and my challenge, despite all of the talk outside, is to have the relationship where we can focus on his development in helping the team while he is here.
“I haven’t had a word with him about Deco or Barcelona. It (Barca’s interest) should be out there because he is fantastic.
“I just want him to become the player I know he can be. Everyone here wants to enjoy the football he can play and of course we want him to stay as long as possible. He’s a fantastic player and very good person.”
Raphinha missed Leeds’ win at Wolves before the international break after testing positive for Covid but is back in contention for Saturday’s home Premier League game against Southampton.
Marsch confirmed both Kalvin Phillips and Liam Cooper were in contention to start but said neither was “90 minutes fit”.
“I don’t think we can start both of them because it becomes two subs we may have to make,” Marsch said.
“I’ve spoken to both of them and they are both feeling good. They’re looking even better. I’m excited to have them in the group now and believe they can have an impact.”
Leeds survival bid was dealt a blow earlier in the week when it was confirmed Patrick Bamford faced a further six weeks on the sidelines due to a foot injury.
But Marsch is hopeful last season’s leading goal-scorer will be fit before the end of the current campaign.
Bamford, who has missed large chunks of the season following a succession of different injuries, had been playing through the problem before rupturing his plantar fascia at Wolves.
Marsch added: “Six weeks means he can make the last two matches. We have to wait and see, but he is walking better and pain free, which he wasn’t for the last four months. We’re optimistic and hopeful.”
Bamford teary response to pulling up at Molineux was captured by the television cameras.
The England striker told Sky Sports: “It’s been a bit of a shoddy year for me, obviously had a few injuries, so the fact that I’d tried so hard to get back and done all I could and then for it to go again, and this time fully go…
“I was all right coming off and then it wasn’t until I sat down on the bench that it kind of hit me a little bit, but Coops and Kalv (Cooper and Phillips) were great.
“Ironically, both Coops and Kalvin know what it’s like, especially these last few months.
“Coops obviously is a great captain and did what a captain should do and then Kalv, being one of my good mates, it was just nice to know they were there for me.”
Goalkeeper Illan Meslier, Mateusz Klich and Diego Llorente, who were all forced off due to injury at Wolves, are expected to feature against Southampton.